District 1 candidates talk county issues
Published 12:04 am Saturday, March 10, 2012
David Ellis is serving his first term as a commissioner. He works with Metcalf And Metcalf Real Estate.
Ken Northey is a cattle and poultry farmer.
Q: Should the county remain on the unit system or return to the district system?
David Ellis: I definitely believe we should remain on the unit system. I believe we’d be backing up (if returned to the district system). To me, we have been a county that follows other counties in progress. There are 55 counties in the state of Alabama of the 67 on it before we went to it. That tells me we’re not on the leading edge of the way to do stuff. It saved $566,000 just the last two years alone. So, no, I think we’d be backing up. A lot of people think that commissioners’ role between the two systems has changed. It has not. We still are at the (top of the) chain of command. We still take complaints, but the biggest thing that has changed is the ethics laws that now restrict us on things that had been done in the past. And you can either choose to operate in the law or out of the law.
Kenneth Northey: Right now, we’re on the unit system, and it seems to be working. We’ve consolidated equipment and stuff like that. I think there are some things that need to be done to make it workable and to make it more responsible responding to people and doing things of that nature like making workers feeling more comfortable in the county system.
Q: For many years, county commissioners had direct responsibility for the county-maintained roads in their districts. Now that the system for managing roads has changed, what do you see as the job of a commissioner?
Ellis: I don’t think a commissioner’s job has ever been just a road commissioner. I think that was just a title people gave them years ago. A commissioner’s main job is to fund the authority of the county. Roads are important, but being able to budget the county’s money is way more important than the county’s road situation.
Northey: A commissioner still has the responsibility to listen to people’s needs. He should then voice it back to the engineer and make sure their needs are well represented. I still think we need to implement some type of maintenance to our roads on a schedule, whether it be getting right-of-ways, scraping ditches, maintaining culverts and such.
Q: Current commissioners have been criticized in this election for the mileage levels at which they have been compensated. Why are so many miles required, and how do you justify these? (For non-incumbents, how do you plan to handle mileage if elected?)
Ellis: I’m not one of the commissioners that should be criticized. I stayed well within my budget, if not around 30 percent or so of it. I go out and take care of every complaint I have; try to ride with the supervisor as much as possible. You have to go to meetings outside of town that you get mileage for, but I cannot answer that. We have addressed that issue. I think from now on, commissioners will be held within their budget limits. The way it was budgeted in past years was in error and that’s why it’s been abused, I think.
Northey: Mileage was brought up the other night at a meeting. I see little need in a big mileage. I can see being reimbursed for out of town trips or when you have to be out doing something. I don’t see much need for it any way else.
Q: One of the major tasks of the commission is to manage the county’s finances. What experience do you have in financial management? Can you read a financial statement?
Ellis: Yes, I can read a financial statement. I was in business ever since I got out of school, either in retail or wholesale business. I owned my own business in Opp for years. I sit on the finance committee at the First Methodist Church in Opp. We have a budget to look at there every month. And, I also look at the county’s budget, and I also have a budget at my business.
Northey: I’ve been self-employed for over 20 years in the farming industry – running poultry house and cattle. I have to maintain a budget at all times, especially with times the way they are. I’ve been on a tight budget with little or no pay at times, with no increase in pay in the last seven years. Our cattle price is up a bit, but we have to deal with fuel, utilities, insurance costs and such. We have to budget it in and make it work for us to the best of our benefit to stay in business. That would only echo what I’d do with the county, if elected.
Q: What’s the biggest issue facing the county in the next four years?
Ellis: Revenue. We’re operating on same amount of revenue that we’ve been operating on since 2002. It varies a little bit through the years, but not enough to offset the prices of electricity, diesel fuel, living expenses, employees, raises. We need to generate more revenue somehow or another without raising taxes. Every decision I’ve tried to make, I hope that they haven’t been selfish decisions. I hope they were decisions to help the county financially, and I think if you look at where we were when we took office in 2008, and where we are now, you can’t argue with the decisions we’ve made.
Northey: The biggest issue I see is a shortfall of money. Our budget is going down. There’s not as much money to work with. We’re losing revenue from every angle. The state is cutting every way they can, so we’re going to have to cut. We can’t depend on federal money. We have to survive on what we have and hope there is extra money we can apply for – be it grants or bonds or whatever we can apply for. But we have to make sure we don’t look at it as a line to survive on. We need to do that on what revenue we do get.